It was bad enough last month watching Washington politicians merrily flying off to the U.N. climate change Conference of Parties in Copenhagen (or COP-15 for short), ostensibly to draft a global warming treaty, when all the players knew that no meaningful pact would result and that the only sure outcome was that much energy would be squandered.
Now comes the sticker shock.
When CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson dug into the latest House expenses filing for the climate confab, she found that the cost for a hotel room for the congressional delegation of 15 Democratic and six Republican members of Congress and 38 staffers was $2,200 per person per day -- more than most Americans spend on their monthly mortgages. In addition, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members flew on three military planes, at an estimated cost of $168,000. Many staffers, however, flew on commercial airlines, at fares ranging from $4,163 to $10,038.
The tab for the House delegation -- not including the military planes -- was $553,564. We still do not know the price tag for the 60-plus administration officials who, like President Barack Obama, attended the summit. Ditto the unknown bill for the two senators -- John Kerry, D-Mass., and James Inhofe, R-Okla. -- and 30-plus Senate aides.
I asked Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill about the $2,200-a-day tab. "We don't get to pick the hotel we stay in," he answered; the State Department picks hotels for congressional delegations, and it chose a five-star Marriott with a six-night minimum during the summit -- hence the $4,406-per-room tab for a 48-hour stay. My journalist pal Ola Tedin of Ystad, Sweden, suggested, "They would have found a better deal in Malmo, Sweden," where many attendees stayed. No, I am told, the delegation worked nonstop and didn't have time for the 35-minute train ride.
As for the airfares, Hammill explained they are "government rate." Government rate means that taxpayers fork over as much as $10,000 for a flight that could be purchased online for $800. "Government rate," then, is D.C.-speak for "money is no object."